For several years, Will Sealy SOM ’17 worked in the federal government trying to tackle the problem of student loans; he worked on formulating policy, regulating the industry and suing predatory lenders. More recently, he co-founded Summer, a startup to help borrowers manage their student loans. Now, the app is set to launch nationwide.
Summer, which Sealy launched with Paul Joo ’12 SOM ’18 LAW ’18 in the spring of 2017, helps borrowers keep track of their student loans and assists them in beginning a repayment plan that could save them money. The app is already being used by graduates of Yale’s School of Management and the Columbia Business School, and it will soon expand to multiple programs at Tufts University. Sealy said that the team’s current goal is to bring Summer to 100 higher education institutions over the next year, including community colleges.
“I realized borrowers don’t have a structure that would guide them and help them,” Sealy said. “There needs to be a trusted advisor in the student loan space [so that borrowers can] have the confidence that this organization is on their side. That’s why in 2015 I decided that I wanted to create that organization.”
Summer — which graduates typically start using after they leave school and before their first loan payment the following fall, does three things to help each borrower. To begin, the app synchronizes information about all the student’s loans in one place. Many borrowers have multiple loans from multiple places, Sealy pointed out, and Summer is able to consolidate loan information from various websites.
Second, the app gives borrowers up-to-date information about repayment plans and options, making sure that such information is relevant to their specific circumstances. For instance, Sealy said, the app will not show international students information about loans only available to U.S. citizens. He added that the app has already saved people thousands of dollars by directing them toward repayment plans and into government repayment plans with lower monthly payments.
Finally, the app sends users alerts via email and text about changes in government policy and how these might impact them, as well as about interest rate changes over time.
Sealy launched Summer while still earning his MBA at Yale. When he first began working on the app, he shared his thoughts with University President Peter Salovey and his wife Marta Moret SPH ’84, who, Sealy said, were enthusiastic about the idea. Sealy added that he worked in partnership with Yale’s Office of Student Financial Services and that the SOM also played a significant role in helping get the startup off the ground.
Rebekah Melville, director of financial aid at SOM, described her experience with Summer as “wonderful” and stressed that the mission of the app — to reduce and simplify student loan debt and burden — resonated with SOM’s own mission.
“I was an early sounding board for Will and have been pleased to watch his idea flourish and to be the first school on board last spring,” she said. “Will’s experience working for Elizabeth Warren at the [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau] on student loan issues and Paul Joo’s regulatory experience inspire confidence in a tool that doesn’t seek financial gains from selling financial products; the schools are the clients. The social impact piece is what aligns so nicely with SOM’s mission to educate leaders for business and society.”
She added that the school “strongly encouraged” all of its graduates to sign up for a Summer account last May and that she hopes the relationship between the school and the startup will continue expanding to include other educational institutions and Yale schools.
Sealy told the News that with the recent resignation of Seth Frotman, the former student loan ombudsman at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, there is an increased pressure on all institutions to provide more resources and better guidance to help student loan borrowers. Sealy said that one of Summer’s main goals is to respond to that need.
“My number one priority is to help every student loan borrower to save as much money on student debt is possible,” he said. “We are partnering with colleges because it’s a great thing to show students that there is an option to get them through this confusing space. It is important to us that we work with experienced leaders in the space to ensure every borrower has clear guidance to make the best financial decisions they can.”
Anastasiia Posnova | firstname.lastname@example.org